The School Food and Beverage Policy: Examining Schools' Readiness to Implement the Policy with Organizational Readiness for Change
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Food and nutrition are an integral part of daily life and can have an effect on social, cognitive, and physical development as well as the prevention of negative health outcomes. The development of the School Food and Beverage Policy was targeted to both elementary and secondary schools in Ontario as a proactive approach to health and wellbeing by eliminating the sale of foods that do not meet nutrition criteria. School food policies can play an important role in students’ overall health and wellbeing, but little is known about schools’ readiness for implementing these policies. The purpose of this study was to examine schools’ readiness to implement the policy with an organizational readiness lens. This study consisted of a policy analysis and qualitative interviews with 8 administrators who were directly involved in the planning and preparation for the policy and 4 teachers who were recommended by their respective principals as key stakeholders in assisting in the process. Policy analysis uncovered the inconsistencies within the policy, while interview data revealed emergent themes surrounding: pre-implementation planning, policy technicalities, and challenges of confronting implementation. The variability in perspectives of readiness illustrates the complexity of preparing for policy implementation across schools and even within schools. Findings suggest that there is a need for more effective dissemination, in-service training, and education for school stakeholders in order to engage and stimulate interest and compliance of the nutrition standards. Having appealing and nutritious foods that students will enjoy is an area that requires more work. Developing supportive partnerships within and outside the school to reinforce consistent messages to students is also an area that needs attention. The results of this research serve as a framework for potential solutions to school nutrition policies, strategies, and interventions and may also inform key stakeholders and policy makers in adapting and refining policies as a means of supporting the implementation process for successful outcomes.